325: A-Minus-Minus

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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You can do this one in every 30 times and still have 97% positive feedback.
Title text: You can do this one in every 30 times and still have 97% positive feedback.


Black Hat is trying to make the world a weirder place by shipping bobcats to his eBay buyers. Ordinarily, negative feedback is used to warn future buyers about sellers who ship broken products or post misleading listings. In this case, the unfortunate buyer is leaving feedback warning future buyers that Black Hat ships bobcats instead of the actual products, though "would not buy again" seems to be a rather feeble response to the replacement. This appears to have been a continuing project, as Cueball receives random packages a year and a half later (576: Packages). Four years later, it is shown that you can blackmail Black Hat into not sending you a bobcat (837: Coupon Code). This comic is also referenced in a popular Amazon review for Randall Munroe's book, What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.

The weak "would not buy again" comment is a play on the stock "would buy again" comment often found in positive eBay feedback; the title "A-Minus-Minus" is a play on the frequent comment "A++." That in turn, sometimes with varying numbers of pluses, seems to be an easy way people use to pad the end of an eBay comment field to the maximum 80 characters. It's also a reference to jokes in which exceptionally good schoolwork is graded with extra pluses after an A+ (and exceptionally bad work is graded with large numbers of minuses after an F).

The title text is about a flaw in eBay's feedback system: You can intentionally do nasty things to your buyers and get very bad reviews, but still have overall high feedback scores as long as you don't do it too often. (See also 937: TornadoGuard, which shows a different flaw in the concept of averaging reviews — namely that five-star reviews for aesthetic qualities are weighted equally to one-star reviews for major functional deficits — and 1098: Star Ratings, which addresses the topic as well.) These reviews would be disregarded by future customers as well for their weirdness.


[Black Hat is packing a bobcat into a box; Megan stands beside him.]
Megan: What are you doing?
Black Hat: Making the world a weirder place.
Bobcat: mrrowlll
[Black Hat has finished taping the package for shipping.]
Black Hat: Starting with my eBay feedback page.
[Bandaged person at a computer with assorted debris around the floor.]
Screen: comments:
Bandaged person typing: Instead of office chair package contained bobcat.
Bandaged person typing: Would not buy again.

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Why should the woman be Danish? She wasn't introduced at this point, and has different hair. -- 10:32, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Good point; I've edited the transcript accordingly. Thanks! - Cos (talk) 12:19, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

- What can we learn from this? - I've learned to expect the unexpected and laugh my ass off when I figure out the reason behind it (Thank you for all the laughs and lessons, Mr. XKCD) - E-inspired (talk) 16:36, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

Does this explanation still need to be listed as incomplete? I really don't think so. Gman314 (talk) 17:23, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

I did remove the incomplete tag after entering more clear internal comic links. But this is still more a link collection than an explanation. I'm still not happy with this.--Dgbrt (talk) 18:43, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

The explanation is clear, but is there some specific e-Bay meaning to A-Minus-Minus (A--) ? --Quicksilver (talk) 19:45, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

I put in my take on A--. Maybe someone can check this, and remove the incomplete tag. 05:03, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

I think that A−− is a grade, proportional to 97%. 12:25, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Following that logic, A+ = 100, A = 99, A− = 98, A−− = 97. 13:57, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

Since it seems like we've explained every possible interpretation of the title, I'm removing the "incomplete" tag. Neito (talk) 16:17, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

What's the deal with the marks on his face? In the last panel, they look like a hash mark and a dollar sign; int the previous one they look like tally marks. Dfeuer (talk) 11:46, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

Randall probably didn't feel like making extra work form himself maintaining visual consistence between panels. -Pennpenn 00:53, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

Bobcats don't have big fluffy tails, they have "bobtails". Also, I would love to be sent a bobcat. Please send me a bobcat. I'm so lonely. Gwynfshae (talk) 15:20, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

here have a fanfiction about boxcat: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13249443/1/I-Am-A-Bobcat Overlord of oddities (talk) 22:58, 21 May 2020 (UTC)